Same-sex marriage passes Minnesota House on 75-59 vote

Marriage equality passes Minnesota House on 75-59 vote

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The Minnesota House approved a bill by a 75-59 vote that could eventually legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

After a two-hour debate, Minnesota is now in line to become the first Midwestern Legislature to pass such a measure, and the state could become the 12th in the country to pass such a law.

"We proved that the golden rule is alive and well in Minnesota," House Speaker Paul Thissen said after the vote.

Hundreds of supporters and opponents had gathered outside the House chamber for the historic vote, in which four of 61 Republicans voted in favor and two of 73 Democrats voted against. Cheers could be heard echoing from the rotunda when the vote was announced.

Watch video of the roll call at:

"There comes a time when you have to set politics aside and decide in your gut," said Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), one Republican who voted in favor of marriage equality.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Karen Clark, emerged from the chamber to be greeted by a wave of gratitude. As an openly gay lawmaker, the vote was profoundly personal.

"My family knew firsthand that same-sex couples pay our taxes, we vote, we serve in the military, we take care of our kids and our elders and we run businesses in Minnesota," Clark, a Minneapolis Democrat, said. "... Same-sex couples should be treated fairly under the law, including the freedom to marry the person we love."

While the issue has divided the state ever since a proposed amendment to amend the state's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage was put on the November ballot, the debate was largely a respectful and civil one as both sides presented personal and passionate arguments.

While DFL leaders said they believed they had secured the 68 votes needed to pass the measure, the final tally surprised some who were preparing for a narrow victory.

"It's amazing. What a wonderful, strong vote for Minnesota," said Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis.) "Seventy-five votes on the House floor. I don't think anyone anticipated [that]."

The bill that was passed contained a Republican-introduced amendment to ensure religious freedom that is credited with locking in the four Republican votes.

"The FitzSimmons religious freedom amendment is what changed it for all four of us," Rep. Pat Garofolo (R-Farmington) told FOX 9 News. "The choice we had was between an all-Democratic bill that had weak protections or had some of the strongest protections in the nation."

The amendment would place the word "civil" in front of the word "marriage" in the state statute as the words "two persons" replace the phrase "a man and a woman" in establishing marriage rights.  It also prohibits religious institutions from being fined.

Even so, many Republicans argued against the bill and criticized Democrats for pushing what they describe as a "divisive" issue.

"I didn't know what I would do when I got there," Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) admitted. "I was fine until I walked in the building today and saw some people here and I know that it's a divisive issue that divides our state and it's not what we needed to be doing at this time."

The Minnesota Senate scheduled a floor vote on the Freedom to Marry Act for Monday, May 13. The session is expected to convene at 11 a.m.

The legislative session ends May 20.

Gov. Mark Dayton has pledged to sign the bill, and its passage would mean same-sex marriages could commence Aug. 1.

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